DisneyQuest is an indoor interactive theme park at Walt Disney World. This post offers some tips & tricks for visiting, and takes a look at it to help you determine if it’s worth your time and money. If you’re planning a 2017 Walt Disney World vacation, you can tentatively include DisneyQuest in your itinerary as its closure has been delayed twice. Now, the question is whether you should include it in your plans, and we’ll answer that in this post.
Before we go further, a bit of background is in order. At the outset, I referred to DisneyQuest as an indoor interactive theme park. Those are Disney’s words, not mine. I’m not nearly that fluent in flowery marketingspeak. I sat in front of a blank screen for about 10 minutes trying to succinctly categorize DisneyQuest in the opening, all to no avail.
January 30, 2017 UPDATE: DisneyQuest will be closing July 3, 2017 to make way for the NBA Experience, which will presumably open sometime in (likely late) 2018. The NBA Experience will be a one-of-a-kind basketball-themed attraction featuring a variety of interactive and hands-on activities putting guests of all ages right in the middle of NBA game action. While precise attractions within the NBA Experience are not yet known, it will offer immersive NBA video productions, numerous interactive experiences, a restaurant, and a retail store.
As for DisneyQuest, enjoy it while you can! Even in its current state, it’s definitely more than an arcade, but calling it an “indoor interactive theme park” frankly makes it sound way cooler than it actually is. The best tagline I can come up with for it is “Next Generation Arcade, Circa 1998.” That may seem sardonic, but in this case, I’m being entirely serious.
This tagline ultimately cuts to the crux of the problem with DisneyQuest: aside from updates here and there, the overall feeling is that it’s stuck in the late 1990s. If Disney were to advertise DisneyQuest, it would only be fitting to hire the Dell Dude, and implore people, “dude, get yourself to DisneyQuest.”
Despite this, is DisneyQuest worth a visit? Well, that depends…
Technology moves quickly, and a lot has changed in the world of interactivity since then. In fairness, not all of these games date back to 1998, but a good number do, and I believe the newest addition is still over a decade old. Even that is an eternity in the world of gaming.
Surprisingly, though, I felt it wasn’t the games that made DisneyQuest feel dated so much as the overall environment and ambiance. The color schemes are totally 1990s, the design style is incredibly tired, and the lighting feels distinctly like one of those roller rinks that is teetering on the precipice of closure after seeing its glory years slip away ages ago. The atmosphere is dark and dreary, making it feel like an old arcade and not what I would expect from a Disney offering.
The experience of going into DisneyQuest reminded me of when I went back to a mall I frequented as a kid–that every store left by the early 2000s (you know, the kind that got scammed by Steve & Barry’s)–and seeing that it’s virtually the same as I remember. Unfortunately, memory tends to color things positively, but in flesh, after seeing that, I came to the realization that 90s styles have not aged well.
In this sense, DisneyQuest is undoubtedly a product of the 1990s. It was developed and built before gaming had truly been embraced by all facets of culture and had gone mainstream, at a time when arcades were widely considered kids’ folly, and an addiction of anti-social adults.
Why the assumption was made that these demographics would prefer dim places is beyond me (and why Disney would follow along with this is even more perplexing), but this being the predominant style of the era can be borne out today in the obsolete arcades that remain from the 1990s.
It may seem like I am devoting an inordinate number of words to such a trivial thing, but I do not think it’s trivial in the least. In fact, I view this as the main problem with DisneyQuest. I think this is really disappointing, as I assume renovating the inside to make it feel more lively would be a relatively cheap fix as compared to developing new games. This is something I do not see discussed much in the “DisneyQuest is stale” conversation, and to me it is the easiest way to modernize DisneyQuest. If it simply were brighter, lighter, and cleaner (in terms of design, not actual cleanliness), I think DisneyQuest would be a lot more popular. As is, DisneyQuest is not a place where I’d want to spend much time simply because the atmosphere is so depressing.
As for the games themselves, I found them to be surprisingly fun. Perhaps I went in with low expectations after hearing so many negative things about DisneyQuest, but I enjoyed the substantive experiences of most games. The graphics were not exactly on the bleeding edge, but they were not so bad as to bother me at all. I will concede that this is a ‘your mileage may vary’ situation. I found all of the graphics of the ‘big’ attractions/games to be on par with Mission: Space, which is perfectly passable by my standards. I’m not sure whether I’m the norm here. I suspect younger audiences or hardcore gamers might balk at the graphics.
To me, video game graphics hit their stride with the Sega Dreamcast, and every improvement since then has been a serious case of diminishing returns and largely superfluous. I am fine with my video games looking like slight caricatures of real life, rather than being indistinguishable from real life. To me, a game’s experience is not defined by the graphics on display. That’s probably another topic for another day, though.
As for the offerings at DisneyQuest, it’s laid out on five floors inside what is essentially a big box building. These floors are divided into various zones, including the Create, Explore, Score, and Replay zones. The main games and interactive experiences are located in each of these zones. Additionally, there are “unlocked” arcade video games, pinball machines, and other random stuff all over the place. Many of these arcade games are actually new (or at least newer).
Now, let’s take a quick look at what I consider to be some of the highlights:
Pirates of the Caribbean – Battle for Buccaneer Gold was my favorite attraction; in this, you stand on the deck of a pirate ship and use cannons to shoot other ships while collecting their games. It has all of the hallmarks of a great attraction: pirates, cannons, and gold. Good times.
CyberSpace Mountain is basically a precursor to Sum of All Thrills in Epcot. Exact same idea, except this has Bill Nye, so it is infinitely better.
Virtual Jungle Cruise had a lot of potential, but I was visiting DisneyQuest by myself (you know, to complete the anti-social gamer stereotype) and it is impossible to go this attraction alone. I found myself perpetually stuck in various corners until the ride mercifully ended.
Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters was a game that should have been right in my wheelhouse as I am an Astro Blasters enthusiast (I have considered going pro, but I’m keeping my amateur status for the Olympics), but the thing barely worked. This is bumper cars with cannons that shoot balls recycled from the closed play areas McDonald’s used to have. Fun in theory, disappointing in actuality.
Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter is a game based loosely on the defunct Magic Kingdom attraction, but it seemed to mostly share a name without the old attraction, and a premise involving aliens. The idea here is that you’re in a virtual spaceship and have to destroy enemy aliens and save colonizing humans. Think Apocalypse Now meets Alien, but a video game. (Yeah, that probably makes no sense. Whatever.)
I did each of these attractions and some others once apiece (Astro Blasters twice to determine if the first failed ride was a fluke–it wasn’t), and then moved on to the arcade games. If you want a precise list of everything in DisneyQuest, check out this synopsis. I actually spent a decent amount of time playing the newer games in the arcade. It was a rainy day, and I didn’t want to walk back to Buena Vista Palace (where I was staying) in that.
During my visit, the place was dead. Again, this was a rainy day (which is supposedly the busiest time for DisneyQuest) during a moderately busy time of year. I showed up a couple of hours after DisneyQuest opened, and literally everything I did was a walk-on. Perhaps it is busier in summer or during the holidays, but there were maybe ~20 other people there when I visited.
You can glean a lot from the above and probably deduce whether it’s worth it for you from that, but I thought I’d add a bit more, because the question of whether it’s ‘worth it’ to do DisneyQuest isn’t quite as straightforward as it might seem.
For starters, the unequivocal “not worth it” situation: you have to purchase individual DisneyQuest tickets at the ticket window there. At $40+ for kids and nearly $50 for adults, there is no way on earth it’s worth it. That’s half the price of theme park admission, for approximately 5% as much fun. Frankly, I would probably complain to Guest Relations if I knew nothing, went to DisneyQuest because it’s marketed as an “indoor interactive theme park”, and paid those prices.
What are the right demographics? My suspicion is that DisneyQuest will appeal most to nostalgic adults in their 30s or young children. I suspect it would not appeal to tech-jaded teens and pre-teens who expect the bleeding edge (my hunch is that they would not be as forgiving of the graphics as I am, but this is merely speculation).
In terms of tickets, the final group would be Annual Passholders whose pass includes admission to DisneyQuest. For this group, a one-time visit to DisneyQuest just to see what the place is about makes sense, as it only costs time, and that time presumably isn’t quite as limited/valuable as the average guest.
Overall, as someone who falls into that final ticket-holding group, I am glad I made a visit to DisneyQuest before it closed just to see it for myself. While I was pleasantly surprised by (some of) the games being more enjoyable than I expected, this actually made me irritated because it made me realize a big part of the “fix” for DisneyQuest is much easier than I had previously thought. Irrespective of that, if you are still thinking of going after reading this, it is worth pointing out that this is not Disney at its finest. So long as you go in with appropriate expectations, it is possible to enjoy the experience, but it’s also pretty easy to see why DisneyQuest will be replaced in the near future. Clearly, its time has come and gone.